Peanut producers should be aware there are significant legal issues whenever it comes to saving seed, and a violation of laws and regulations could prove costly.

“All peanut varieties that are currently grown in Georgia are, to my knowledge, protected by either the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) of 1994 or a plant patent,” said Terry Hollifield of the Georgia Crop Improvement Association, speaking at the recent Georgia Peanut Farm Show in Albany.

There are several ways of going about getting a plant patent, he says. “The plant itself might be unique. In horticulture, that would include some of our turfgrass varieties. It can have a unique oil or mill chemistry. It can also have a unique gene, such as the Roundup Ready crops. Sometimes, you can have both a PVPA and a patent,” says Hollifield.

So what exactly is protected? Hollifield says the intellectual property rights of the developer are protected, and the developer isn’t necessarily the breeder.

“It can be the breeding institution such as the University of Georgia or the University of Florida, a private company, USDA. They own the intellectual property rights to that new invention. They have the ability to determine who can grow that seed and market it, and who has to pay a royalty for unique traits,” he says.

Varieties protected under the USDA-administrated PVPA may not be sold, marketed, offered for sale, delivered, consigned or exchanged without the explicit consent of the owner of the variety. “It is illegal to condition or shell the variety for the purpose of propagation. However, a producer may save seed for the sole purpose of planting his holdings, he says.

But there currently is some discrepancy over the term, “planting his holdings,” says Hollifield.

“What that meant to us in the past was that if you traditionally grew 100 acres of peanuts, and you purchased seed of a protected variety, and you wanted to save enough seed to re-plant that 100 acres, then you’re welcome to do so.

“That was within the law. But there has been some discussion over the last six to seven months that that is not the intent of the law — that what it really means is if you purchased 10,000 pounds of Georgia-06 seed last year, then you can save 10,000 pounds of Georgia-06 seed to plant this coming spring.”